If only there could be a travel blog that gives you the real experience

I love to travel, but find it tiring. The traffic, the language barriers, sickness, and other hassles don’t add to the experience — although they define it. But, for us busy types, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to travel without leaving your home? In a sense with travel videos, you can do more than you think. But, you can’t taste the food, smell the air, or feel the emotions of the traveler.

To me the salient features of travel are the unusual experiences you might have. You might meet someone in a train station, or have an interesting experience chatting in a cafe. It is not anymore about the culture, or the city, but about the people, and the experience. But, how can you translate this into a blog or video? Is it even possible?

I have written other articles about virtual travel. This requires a multi-billion dollar theme park where you really feel like you are in a different environment. In real life, someone determined could probably build such a place. But, how can you engineer your blog or video to help you at least imagine the smells, tastes, and the real experience without making it look documented? Perhaps it might be nicer to try to capitalize on the more interesting moments during a trip. Most trips are quite dull most of the time, but then a few minutes a day you’ll have a “wow” experience. You’ll see an interesting building or something interesting will happen.

My most interesting travel experience was looking for my friend in a Mumbai railway station. A stranger in his 60’s came up to me and said, “Your friend is looking for you.” I told him I was also looking for my friend. Then, I looked around and couldn’t find her in the crowd. Then, the man came back five minutes later and told me to make a loudspeaker announcement. I went to the manager’s office and made an announcement. Then, I waited. Nothing happened. I went back and walked around and found her. Then we walked back to where I had been standing. Keep in mind this station is huge and has thousands of people in it. It was a scene of a horrible massacre years after my experience there. We both saw the guy who I had talked to. I asked my friend if she had talked to him before. She said she had never seen him before. Bizarre — only in India!

If you run your own business, you can travel & then deduct it!

I own my own business and I love to travel. I love it when I can have a business meeting in a different metro, and deduct my expenses. In real life this doesn’t always work out that well. It is often that the service provider just isn’t doing good work and I have to fire them. But, I suppose if I keep looking I will be able to find good people in places I like to go anyway.

I love going to wine country, San Diego, Tucson, and Santa Fe. I hire programmers in other cities. That tends to be complicated. But, I could also hire bloggers, social media experts, or other consultants. I wonder if I can find any in the desired cities though. I found a programmer I really like. He is in Mississippi. Driving from Los Angeles to Jackson is a lot more than I think I can handle unless that is the only thing I do all month.

But, in the past, I did find programmers in other cities. I did deduct my trip. Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t as “fun” as I wanted it to be because it was 80% about business and not about fun. The IRS will be satisfied that I am doing real work on my trips, but I am not. Is it possible to combine business and pleasure like a pro? If it is, let me know how to master this art — I really want to know! (ooh, that rhymes!)

A lifestyle of travel can take a lot out of you

I remember my trips to India. It was so easy going, but coming back I felt like I was in a daze for three weeks. I never understood why it is like that. But, others claim the same thing! Travel tires me out. I can drive to other states, and enjoy that tremendously. The deserts of the American Southwest are mesmerizing and enchanting. But, there is nothing like going to a foreign country.

Sure, in America we have Chinatown, Japantown, and people from all over the world. But, it is not like being in a real foreign country. When you are abroad, the phone system is different, the coca cola tastes different, it smells different, people don’t speak English to each other, etc. In short, it is really different when you get off a plane. While in Los Angeles it only feels different!

But, I notice that I have gotten caught up with work. Maybe that is good. I am making something of myself. I am getting ahead. I am trying new things in business . I am mastering my skills. But, I feel very cut off from the world. Will I ever see India again? Will I ever see Bali or Dubai? Maybe I need to set my priorities. Maybe I need to work less, and make it imperative that I do some travel. Slowly, but surely I am rearranging my life to make my weekly activities more manageable, and I’m finding more people to help me too. Maybe I’ll be able to have time for an international life. Or better — maybe I can have business activities that require international travel. That would be my dream come true. My psychic says it will happen. So, we’ll see!

The importance of spending time with trees

My guru told me I should meditate at a particular place because the old trees would be good for me to stay spiritually grounded. It sounded a bit far out, but it worked. I was very unstable before I started going to that meditation spot. When I went once a week, I really did feel more grounded. I was much less paranoid. I didn’t feel the need to go on trips quite so often. As you know from reading my blogs, I have the travel bug, but don’t always have the time to satisfy my travel cravings. The place I often meditate has some very unusual trees. There are older trees that twist around. Some of the braches need to be held up by supports as these are really ancient trees. The people who used to visit this place really loved the trees. I don’t know if those are people who go there now, or people decades ago. This place in Mount Washington is lost in time. The vibration there is more from the 1940’s than any other decade.

But, there are other places with trees. The environment is different and the types of trees are also different. The Santa Cruz area has wonderful redwood forests. I love going there several times a year to commune with nature. I find it deeply satisfying to be around those wonderful trees. They have a wonderful healing energy to them and I love how soft the ground is around their trunks as well.

Hotel Bel-Air has a wonderful sunken garden with all types of trees including a Silk Floss Tree, seven Redwoods, and many other very unusual trees. I swear there are pixies or angels there in the garden. You can’t see them, but they must be thre in such an unusual environment.

I notice a very negative change in my personality when I haven’t had my dose of nature or in particular — trees. Maybe we all need to be with trees. Thomas Jefferson claimed that man needed to live in nature. I agree with him. Too bad I can’t meet him. I’m a few hundred years too late. But, I play the cello — so, we have something in common even with the time differential!

Finding a bar with your personality

I have looked far and wide. I’m not much of a bar person, but from time to time I’ll visit a bar. I recently had a conversation with a guy who hosts wine tasting who swore that the best memories of his life were in a neighborhood bar in Western Massachusetts. I think his statement sums up with blog entry. It is all about finding — your spot!

I always notice that almost everyone I know in my apartment complex I know from the cafe. It has a very social vibe there. I seem to get into lively conversations easily there, while in the rest of Los Angeles it just doesn’t happen. Normally when I go to bars, people are not so talkative. But, I went to a bar in San Diego in a hotel. Everyone there talked to me. The bartender told me his stories – of which there were many. The older guy to my right talked about five different subjects with me. Then, the Attorney on my left talked about business, travel, life and the universe. I think I found my bar.

The problem with bars is that you really can’t drink and drive. If I go out, I’ll have one glass of wine at the most. That limits how long you can hang out at a bar unless you have ginger beer and popcorn. But, recently I went into our neighborhood bar. I think they have turned hands three times since I have lived here. Now they are an upscale cocktail bar. They had only one choice of wines which I didn’t like. But, next time I am going to try their Cuban Ambassador cocktail. Rum, pineapple, and other flavors. I have only had a cocktail once in my life, so I am curious to try this concoction that the bar tender talked me into. I think the fact that the bartender was Cuban makes me more interested in trying a Cuban drink created by him! This is a local bar. I can walk there in twelve minutes. So, if the cocktail works out well, I can have another and still make it home alive! But, I will note, that although the new bar is in the same building that the old bar was in, the personality of the bar is quite different.

But, why would you name a 1920’s style upscale Hollywood bar — “Blue Collar?” I think that a name like, “The Roosevelt” would be much better, don’t you? Maybe some roaring 20’s music playing too to set the mood!

I met a guy who lives in Tijuana, but works in San Diego

My last trip to San Diego was a little unusual for me. I stayed at some different places and met different types of people. Keep in mind that I live in Los Angeles. We are not near the border, so what goes on near the border is a bit foreign for us. We’re aware of the drug war, but are hours away from it. However, people who live in San Diego belong to a culture of people who go back and forth across that dangerous border.

So, I checked into my hotel. I start gabbing with the staff. The guy I was talking to worked in San Diego, but lived in Tijuana. He drove across every day. He said there was no particular problem with traffic for him. He goes in the fast lane since he has a special pass. I asked him if it was dangerous with the drug war. He said he didn’t feel any danger just as long as you avoid the dangerous part of town. He said that you could get shot by gang bangers in San Diego. I feel safe in most parts of America, but feel that Mexico these days is deadly. To him it is home. And he is not even Hispanic!

Then we started talking about prices. He said that you can get a middle class apartment for about $300 there or live like a rich man for $1000 per month. I like those prices. But, I’m not about to risk my life to save a few bucks! But, once again, to him, it is safe, and he is used to crossing the border daily. Hmmm…

Joshua Tree National Park — more spiritual than you might think

I have made it a habit to go to Joshua Tree regularly. I go partly to hike, but partly for health reasons. I work inside, and don’t get enough sunlight. Having a three hour drive during the day and then hiking for two hours gets me plenty of sunlight. I also learned that Joshua Tree has good healing energies for my heart and kidneys. I always associate the desert with fire energies which benefit the heart, but I have learned in recent years that some parts of the desert can really help your lungs, spleen, and other meridians in Chinese Medicine.

Joshua Tree is great for my heart!
So, with the benefit to my circadian rhythms, my heart, and great hiking, I decided to try to visit Joshua Tree twice a month. Later on, during subsequent visits, I started meditating there. But, I can’t remember how that started. Joshua Tree has a very happy crowd that goes there. There are some hippy people who do mushrooms at night as well which is not very wholesome. But, it is such a cosmic environment there with these bizarre looking trees, unusual rock formation, and a clear view of the sky. It is very enchanting being there, especially at night. I like it there whether it is hot or cold.

I don’t know how it all started meditating there.
I guess at one point, I just started to meditate there, and it felt really good. I meditate in lots of places. I have visited ashrams around the world. I’ve been to many national parks, and other places too. I am very in tune with the vibrations of places. Joshua Tree’s energy is very pure, and in tune with the spiritual vibes of the cosmos. I generally wait until sun down after a hike and then meditate. It is generally fairly quiet. Keep in mind that I am in my car in a parking lot during the meditation. There are generally other people in the parking lot, but they don’t normally make too much noise. What really bothers me is when their headlights are pointed at me which is blinding.

The mystical Southern Entrance.
But, I can get into a deep meditation fairly easily, and feel very fulfilled afterwards. I meditated in the Southern part of the park near the 10 freeway and the Cottonwood campground. That was different. Long time ago I got lost hiking there with a friend. I was paranoid while we were lost until we found our way. But, I noticed spirits hanging around in the rocks. I thought they were extra-terrestrial since they were so still. My psychic at the time thought they were Native American. Later on, my guru told me that they were moon spirits. I think there are some spirits from Saturn’s moon Titan. This is pretty cosmic stuff here. Not too many people blog about spirits from other planets. But, I sense them there loud and clear.

All alone in the dark
Meditating in the Southern region is just plain odd. You are all alone in the dark. It is not scary, but you can’t see what is out there. And then I feel surrounded by presences. I know there must be dozens of spirits all around me observing me. These are good spirits, so it is not scary, but it is very unusual. Meditating in the Southern region was considerably more mystical than in the Northern part of the park where the Joshua Trees grow. It is as close as you can get to being on another planet or in another realm. Physically, it looks like you are on another planet. All I can say is — try it. If you meditate, go out there, perhaps go camping, and try meditating for an hour or two. I would say that apart from Yosemite which is blessed by angels, Joshua Tree is the best place to meditate perhaps in the world!

Drunken Noodles at Natalie Thai

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, my roommate and I went out to eat. We decided to have Indian and Thai food. I had a very pleasant tandoori chicken salad at Electric Karma on 3rd street in Los Angeles. It was very satisfying, especially with the Taj Mahal beer. Later that night we drove past Mao’s Chinese Kitchen. I had read about it online, but never seen it. They have a communist China theme throughout the restaurant and I enjoyed the People’s Dumplings and other dishes. But, the dish that really caught my attention this holiday season was at Natalie Thai.

Natalie Thai has several locations in Los Angeles.
Thai people don’t find it authentic, but I think they are my absolute favorite. I will say, that being an experienced consumer of Thai cuisine, certain restaurants excel at particular dishes. Natalie Thai has always offered top notch food in my experience, but some of the other places out there are lacking when it comes to particular dishes. I have had bad Thai BBQ chicken at several places, lousy Pad Thai at a few spots, and even bad drunken noodles near the beach at a different restaurant.

Drunken Noodles.
There are certain Thai dishes that are dear to my heart. I’m not sure why I like them so much. I love Ping Fish in Red Curry sauce. It is a deep fried sole filet served with red curry sauce and with lots of basil, jalapenos, and red bell peppers. I used to get it twice a month in the old days. But, my absolute favorite is drunken noodles. I love all Thai noodle dishes. But, Natalie Thai does drunken noodles the best. I had it once with a beer, and once without a beer. It seems to be good sober as well. Drunken noodles is a dish with fried flat noodles, basil, onion, bell pepper, and egg. The ingredients are fairly typical. It is a little more spicy than other noodle dishes. They call it Monsoon Noodles at Natalie which is confusing to me.

Many names many dishes
Thai restaurants have all types of bizarre names for their dishes. Another spot called their noodles “Gangster Noodles,.” I enjoyed having that too, particularly with all the jokes my buddy and I were making about the dish. We talked about having a Thai restaurant with a gangster theme. It would be fun if nobody got shot.

Later on
After that I tried some of their raspberry white chocolate chip ice cream. Very unusual. I think I prefer regular chocolate chip or mint chocolate chip, but they didn’t have any.

Via Alloro Beverly Hills: Pistachio Molten Cake

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Via Alloro in Beverly Hills. They are an Italian restaurant owned by a family that owns twelve local restaurants. Most of the restaurants are Italian, and considered the best in town, but two are Japanese. The service is great at all of their restaurants. The menu is a bit limited, especially at the Japanese restaurants. There are many choices for sushi, but not many choices for entrees.

Although, all of their restaurants are excellent, it is Via Alloro that catches my attention the most. The architechture is stunning in this circular building. The staff is very friendly and attentive. I was most impressed by the desserts. Most places just don’t have that many desserts, and the quality is rarely good enough to rave about.

I looked at the dessert menu after having a customized Fusilli Arabiatta with Italian sausage which isn’t on the menu. The sauce is perfect. Nobody else comes even close to having the perfect taste and density of sauce. But, the dessert menu had a pistachio molten cake. I decided to get it because I had never heard of anything like it.

The outside of the cake was made with pistachio flower. The inside had a gooey pistachio molten center. I have had chocolate molten cake several times before, and every time I get it, I have a horrible experience — and I say that as a chocolate lover. But, this pistachio molten cake had the perfect flavor, and wins the prize for the best dessert I have had in a long time since I had the Macadamia Cremeaux at Roy’s downtown a year ago.

I liked this cake so much, that the next time I tried a blackberry cake with ice cream. What impressed me most was that the minute they delivered the cake to me, I could smell the freshness from several feet away. The smell was so amazing I couldn’t believe it. The taste was amazing as well. It was a simple dessert, but I could tell that they put a tremendous effort into making everything they serve absolutely perfect — and I appreciate that.

On a final note, the “feng-shui” is excellent for me at Via Alloro. My business and life tends to prosper when I go to good feng-shui places. But, it is in Beverly Hills where the rich and famous hang out, so maybe we can take the feng-shui for granted there.

Food tasting in the Art District. Earl Grey Pie & Blues Sausage

I enjoy food tasting and try to do it as much as I can. My budget doesn’t allow for me to go to the $120 five star food tasting events, but I do what I can. Los Angeles offers many opportunities for people to go out and taste new dishes. There are always new restaurants opening up, and unusual things to try. The quality in Los Angeles is generally quite good for food.

So, I went to the Wurstkuche restaurant in the arts district. I had ordered their rattlesnake sausage before. It sort of lacked flavor and needed a tender aioli instead of their flavor intensive choice of mustards. But, this time I ordered their Austin Blues Sausage. It was excellent. Filled with smokey rich flavor. Of the twenty sausages they serve there, this one is my favorite. I also tried a pheasant sausage which was very robust and I’m very glad I tried it. Next, I waltzed across the street, dodging the multitude of homeless bums that frequent the neighborhood.

I tried an Earl Gray Pie in the bakery. The crust was perfect, and then there was Earl Gray filling and cream. I have never had anything like this before. It was a fun experience. Earl Gray Pie is not my favorite, but with Earl Gray Ice Cream being popular at gourmet ice cream places, I thought I should try.